Our first month on One Planet Living, our month of making do is in full swing, and it is so inspiring hearing all about the small steps that people in the Facebook group are taking every day, and all the inventive ways they are coming up to Make Do with the stuff they already have, I love it!
Lots of people have chosen this month to Make Do with the food they already have. So they have been shopping their cupboards, raiding their freezers, making inventories of all those forgotten tins and packets, and then coming up with meal plans that make best use of the food already in the house, before hitting the shops.
Some people are shopping less and eating up the stuff in the freezer, and others are just shopping for a very few staples each week (fresh milk, fruit and veg etc) and making up the rest from their store cupboards, and then there are others who are simply paying closer attention to their leftovers and pledging to cut out food waste.
However you choose to go about to go about it, making the most of our food is a really powerful and important thing to do.
Food waste has had quite a lot of press in the last couple of years, and I think we are all now more aware of the issue. There are some shocking stats around food waste, but for me the stand out ones are:
- Between 30 and 50% of the food that is produced never even reaches the table
– it is thrown away because it doesn’t meet the supermarkets rigid cosmetic standards, or the packaging is mis-labelled, or a myriad of other reasons.
- The food thrown away in Europe and North America would be enough to feed all the hungry people in the world three times over
Now as individuals there might not be a huge amount that we can do about the food wasted before it even reaches the shops (although we can support ‘wonky veg’ schemes, and put pressure on supermarkets by voting with our money), but there is a huge amount we can do to stop food waste in our own homes.
Research suggests that the average family home in the UK wastes £700 of food a year, that’s a staggering amount!
Even just thinking about the money you could save should act as a pretty big incentive, but there are other reasons too:
- All food has embedded energy (carbon) and water in it. This is the energy and water that it has taken to grow, transport and package the food before it arrives on our supermarket shelves. As fresh, clean drinking water becomes a scarcer resource, we need to do all that we can to make sure that when it is used to produce food, we do actually eat that food.
- Food waste that goes to landfill decomposes and produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and a significant contributor to climate change.
- Making the best use of the food we have shows appreciation for the people who have worked so hard to produce it – the farmers, the growers, the packers, many of whom work long hours in difficult conditions.
So we need to learn to love our leftovers, and not just our leftovers, but also the limp looking veg left in the fridge at the end of the week, or the slightly squidgy fruit mouldering away in the bowl.
Food waste is a huge topic, and one that we won’t be able to do justice to in just a week, or a month, but we can all make a start. And as I always say, it is making a start, and the baby steps that all add up and really do have an impact.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Set aside an hour or two to go through your cupboards, and your fridge and freezer.
Take everything out and make a note of the best before dates. If there is stuff that is beyond it’s expiry date, then make an educated decision about how safe it might be still to eat. This is a personal call – I have a fairly lax approach to best before dates, and would always choose to open stuff and have a sniff and a cautious taste. I’m similarly relaxed about the amount of time that I will keep stuff in the freezer and have happily served up meals that have been lurking in the freezer for a couple of years.
Put back the stuff you are happy to keep, and make a note of what needs using up first.
- If you are going to be really organised, or are like me and very forgetful and can’t remember what is in the freezer and your cupboards, you can make a list that you keep pinned to the kitchen noticeboard or the fridge.
- Make a meal plan each week or month.
Once you know what food you already have in the house, you can make a meal plan around it. Sites like Love Food Hate Waste, and BBC Good Food allow you to type in an ingredient and then generate recipes that will use it up.
Then consult your meal plan and create your shopping list based on what other things you need to make the recipes you have picked.
- There are also various apps you can download that allow you to input food items, and then generate recipes. I haven’t tried any out myself, but a quick Google came up with this article which has some useful links.
- The Riverford Veg Machine is another good app (although currently i-phone only I think) that helps you use up all your veg. It works like a fruit machine and you can enter in up to three veg and it comes up with delicious recipes for you.
- Speaking of apps, there in one called Olio, that allows you to upload food (and now I think other items too) items that you can’t or won’t use and make them available to other Olio users nearby. It’s usefulness is slightly limited at the moment by the number of users that might be near enough to you, but do keep checking back and sharing stuff – that’s how things like this grow and become more useful!
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall produced a Leftovers book last year, that is packed with great recipes for using stuff up, some familiar, and some less so.
- Right here on the blog if you search food waste or leftovers using the search function (little magnifying glass at the top right hand side of the page) you should find lots of recipes that I’ve tried and tested – I’ll also put together a round up so they’re all in one place!
- Join our Facebook community! Share your questions, ideas, favourite recipes. Having a group of over 4.000 like-minded people to consult means that the ‘hive mind’ will normally always find an solution for any food waste dilemmas you may be facing. Or if you just want to share your experiences, your goals, and your wins along the way, it’s a brilliantly supportive place to be.
Hopefully you are now inspired as to why food waste is such an important part of Making Do, and also how you can start to go about tackling it, right now in your own home.
Happy eating 🙂
PS. I’m getting ready to send the first round up e-mail of the One Planet Living challenge, do sign up here if you haven’t already!